RESIDENTS of extension 32 in Birch Acres near Kempton Park are angry and disappointed that seven years since construction began on a new school in the area, the Gauteng Department of Education has failed to complete the project.
As the department’s academic kicked off on Wednesday, the community was dismayed that, despite department’s promise last week to open the school, it remained incomplete and abandoned.
Construction on the R36 million facility was meant to have started in 2017 and was scheduled to be completed after six months.
Construction of the site sits at 84%, and the community fears it could soon become a den for criminal activity.
They said Vereeniging-based company Makgotamishe Holdings abandoned the building after allegations of corruption and misuse of the millions of rand meant for the project.
After questions were posed by the Sunday Independent a week before schools opened, department spokesperson, Steve Mabona, said it would be ready and open for enrolment this year.
He said: “The said school is currently being prepared for occupation in the 2024 curriculum year, which will alleviate pressure in the area accordingly.”
However, the publication can reveal that this has not happened.
Mabona had not responded to follow-up questions by the time of publishing.
Community liaison officer Richard Seletisha, who was elected by the residents to voice their views, this week confirmed that no government official had visited the school.
“False promises hurt. From 2006 we have been singing the same song that says we need a school in the area. There is not even correspondence from the department,” Seletisha said.
The neighbourhood has had no school since its extension from Birchleigh North almost two decades ago, compelling parents to pay thousands of rand for the transportation of their children to overcrowded primary schools nearby.
“It's very bad and it hurts to see our own brothers and sisters in charge doing this to us with our tax money. Memorandum after memorandum has been submitted, with no response since the time of MEC Panyaza Lesufi [now Gauteng premier], and Mondli Gungubele (then Ekurhuleni mayor].
He said the matter goes back to when David Makhura [former Gauteng premier] was still in charge.
Seletisha added that the buildings of the incomplete school posed a serious threat to residents of neighbouring schools because it was dark and mosquitoes bred in the water in trenches dug around the building. Trees hung over neighbouring houses and that too was a nuisance and environmental threat.
“Some people had to sell their houses because criminals often jump the wall and vanish in the bushes in and around the school,” he said.
He added that there was now a danger that security of the school will be abandoned because of non-payment.
“It is disturbing to see our government having a hand in turning people's lives to poverty.
“Our kids are squashed in classes due to lack of enough schools in the area and parents who are not employed due to economical reasons have to watch their kids walking long distances with heavy bags of stationary while the school is 84% complete,” Seletisha said.
Seletisha said the community had marched to the department in September last year but nothing had happened.